Working the land! Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

land4lined2

After years of talking and dreaming about it, moving on to the land is fast becoming a reality – and it’s scary to say the least.

It was actually ten years ago when I bought the land and waiting for the time to be right has taken this long.

house site

Now though, the process has well and truly started. It’s now all about obtaining permits and surveying and already we have come across a few things we were unaware of but hopefully with the right advice everything will be okay. Planning exactly where to place the house has been fun but at the same time there is always the thought that once it is placed that’s it, so you really only get one shot, so it had better be right. The problem is that with six acres you are spoilt for choice, but the main factor has been the sun; where it rises and where it sets.

view kitchen

The house site has now more or less been decided now and flagged. The views from the front look out on fields, whilst the back looks down towards where the lake is going to be, and the woods. Deer come out most nights, and from the many bones we’ve found, there’s obviously a coyote or two who enjoy the deer, turkey buzzards finishing their left overs.

On the ‘things to do’ list are checking out the electric, which is already at the land, and hopefully we can use an existing pole so we should only need one smaller pole by the house.

view living room

Water is also already at the land but it will be getting it to the house that might be hard, but they deal with this everyday so I’m sure it will be okay, and there’s a house further away from the road already so they might be able to take the source from there.

The big cost is the septic tank, no city sewage out here. The land has to be perked, which it was ten years ago but just has to be checked again, but that should be straightforward, fingers crossed. Researching different septic systems is fun – not!

There used to be no signal for the cell phones on the land but now with a new service provider there is a great signal. I’ve already checked and our current internet, landline and TV provider does cover out here so that’s good.

We’ve been checking out sheds and outbuildings. On the covered porch we’re planning on having a jukebox and an old coke chest cooler. We’ve been looking at containers and coincidentally on a show last night on one of the DIY channels they made a very cool bar from a 20 foot shipping container, so that’s what we’re going to do, down by the lake.

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I also in my head placed the studio yesterday too, on the small hill that is on the land, and close enough to the house, but at the same time, far enough away. There’s a deck in front of the studio so that will be another place to sit and watch the sun go down, will a little moonshine or bourbon or wine or …….. I call it the moonshine deck anyhow.

I just hate it when things are out of my control, guess I’m a control freak. It’s just that that way you can make sure everything is right – if you want a job done properly, right? But some obvious things are out of my control such as the soil testing, which due to the bad weather, with the snow and ice, and now rain, the surveyor is three weeks behind, but he lives right by the land so he has said he will hopefully do the test before then on his way home if he finishes early one night.

So, I’m taking a deep breath, not panicking, enjoying it, hopefully led by the very small light that seems to be at the end of a very long tunnel.

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Clearing the driveway.

Posted March 10, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Sounds, hobo, tin roofs – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

hobo

What is it about sounds and noises that can conjure up feelings, emotions and memories. Songs are an obvious example – they remind us of a time in our lives, or people, but what about freight train horns, or a ship’s fog horn? They represent the gypsy in many of us, journeys, adventures even.

I bought my first house when I was eighteen, and it had a wonderful skylight and if you stood on a chair you could see docks down at Cardiff Bay, but netter still, on a foggy night, you could here the ship’s horns, as they left or arrived at, the docks. My grandfather was dock master there during the Second World War and my other grandfather was a Captain in the Swedish Merchant Navy, so perhaps my wanderlust was, and is, unavoidable.

The sound of a freight train’s horn was apparently Johnny Cash’s favorite sound, and is one of mine. I love the stories of the men, hobos, who ride the train across the country. It seems romantic but in reality it is a hard and brutal life, as they fight to survive, moving from area to area in the hope of jobs. This was one of the reason I called the first album, Country Tales and Hobo Trails. I see the trains leave Nashville, some seem to go on for ever, they have so many carriages.

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It’s the same with truck drivers; I pass them on the interstate and wonder where they are heading for? Sleeping in their cabs most nights, driving along the highways of this wonderful country.

Planes just don’t seem to have the same romance do they? They are more functional and as much as I don’t mind flying at all, I never look forward to a twelve hour flight, but with trains or trucks, ships or even cars. I’ve done a number of ‘road trips’, here in the States, east to West, (Fort Lauderdale to LA); south to north (Florida to Canada), and in Europe (Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and French, all in one go, and numerous trips from Wales to the south of France).

Another favorite sound for me, and many others, is the sound of rain on an old tin roof, very Southern. At the back of my bedroom there’s an old tin shed and the sound of the rain on there is wonderful. It’s actually very relaxing, and it’s free! Thank you, Mother Nature.

tin roof

Here are some links:

link to train horns – http://youtu.be/dZ5O4TRp9dk
link to sound of rain – http://youtu.be/WymXdRV4mNI ten hours long!

link to country tales – http://youtu.be/5r0JM4j4oiE

Posted March 5, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Hartsville Early Morning – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

hartsville sign

They start so early here. It’s a shock to the system, getting up and out by 7 or so. This morning drove to Hartsville for the septic permit, and then breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Lebanon, where their headquarters are based.

The warmest day in a while, going to be in the 60’s later, and then – snow tomorrow! Crazy weather. Cathy told me a saying – Mother Nature is having hot flushes!

Traffic is heavy early on. More is made of each day here, with the early starts. This also explains why ‘lunch’ starts at 11:30/12:00 for many people. Four o’clock is drive home time and best to be avoided if possible.

The local television and radio coverage of the traffic is excellent and can save you being stuck in a jam for hours. There was obviously an accident on the i40 this morning going into Nashville, traffic at a standstill but luckily we were going the other way.

Listening to the radio there are currently two tracks that possible indicate a way ahead for country music – Sam Hunt’s ‘Take Your Time’ and Chase Rice’s ‘Ride’. I’m sure these will annoy purists, both having such an R & B feel, but country music has to move forward. I personally love both tracks, a lot.

Here are the links if you’re interested.

Sam Hunt – http://youtu.be/Evqvefc4fqM

Chase Rice – http://youtu.be/hfwQyAalZLU

Posted March 3, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Music, moods and emotions – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

This week’s Grammy’s once again served to show the diversity of music and how it can reflect and change mood and emotion.

I don’t understand people who only listen to one genre of music. We should all be musical sponges, soaking up the vibe or the pain or the passion of a track, whatever kind of music it is – rock, pop, R & B, jazz, classical, blues, hip hop, country – and these are in no particular order.

I have always encouraged artists I’ve worked with to trace back the artists that they like to see who influenced them – surely every female singer should know who Billie Holiday is for example, as they should of course be aware of Sinatra. Trace music back to the delta, Robert Johnson, or the folk songs of Woody Guthrie; you can go back further – the commercial melodies of Sergei Rachmaninoff (my personal favorite) and before him Bach or Mozart; it is in the arrangements that also pull a song out of itself.

A great production can save a mediocre song; a bad production can kill a great song.

Nelson Riddle was talking about arranging songs for Sinatra and he said that he would build up to the part when Sinatra would start singing and “get the hell out of there!”

Whatever time of day it is, or whatever mood you are feeling, there is a song out there for you, I hope you find it.

Posted February 12, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Acting, actors, methods – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

Weekend Break
Me on stage for my play, Weekend Break, trying to remember my lines! Photo courtesy of The Stage

I’ve started to consider actresses for the lead female role in the new play/film for later this year and the difference in acting methods between UK and US actors interests me.

In the UK acting is, or certainly was, all about the stage. When I studied acting it was very much aimed at the stage – projection, etc. Here in the US it is primarily for television and film, the camera.

If you polled UK actors, I would suggest all have performed on stage; if you polled US actors, I would suggest that less than half have ever appeared professionally on a stage. In the past, a lot of US actors have gone to the UK to act on stage, taking minimum fees too, just to do it. Lindsey Lohan is doing it right now.

It’s very noticeable whether an actor has been trained for the stage or for the camera.

On stage of course you have to project, so that the audience can see you. Gielgud, Burton, Olivier were all stage actors and are of course some of the greatest actors of all time. When you started out as acting as I did as a kid, it was all about the stage really. Film was almost a dirty word. The one thing with stage acting was that you had to learn all your lines! I learnt this to my cost when we did my play as above, Weekend Break, at the Gilded Balloon at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Even though I had written it I dropped several pages, totally forgetting them, ill prepared. A lesson I will never forget.

I would never work with a prompter though, an actor’s safety net, the person who sits in the wings ready just in case you do forget your lines. When I had the theatre I witnessed a local amateur dramatic company stage a play, complete with prompter. One elderly actor duly forgot his lines and waited for a prompt. Unfortunately the man, who was such a sweet soul, was also deaf and couldn’t hear the prompt so had to go off stage and read the script. The audience though could see him and started laughing; it was quite sad.

Props and sound effects can also be nightmares for stage actors. I’ve seen a stage wall, a ‘flat’, fall down; actors miss their cues and come in at the wrong time or on the wrong line, but it some ways, it’s part of it.

But when it goes right ………. there is a reason why acting on stage has been around for six centuries or more. If you have never been to see a play, I encourage you to do so – not an adaptation of a film musical, although they can be great, not a pantomime as in Britain, which is the only live theatre most people in the UK regrettably see, although they too are great fun; no, I mean a proper play. It doesn’t need to be Shakespeare, actually far from it, look for something new, a contemporary play, something at least from the last century at least – Williams, Osborne, Orton, Steinbeck, Naughton, Barstow, Sillitoe, go back further to Wilde and Coward – these are just my personal favorite writers.

Nowadays of course it’s all about television and film – the camera. One of the best actors in this genre is John Travolta who knows that the camera will pick up the slightest movement, expression, the raise of an eyebrow. Learning to work the camera is like learning to work an audience.

The difference has been highlighted for me this week in beginning to consider and find an actress for the new play later this year, trying to find an actress who is able to take on the demanding role, and on stage first. It will be out of a lot of actor’s comfort zone, which is nearly always a good thing and produces their best work. We will see, time will tell.

Posted February 6, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Busy week, Wolf Moon – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

moon

It’s been a busy week.

I’ve been writing and have finished the second draft of the new book literally just now. So a proof read and one more read through and that’s done. I’m very pleased with the book so far, and think it’s the best thing I’ve written to date.

Now to concentrate on the music with all the new songs.

I’ve lost a couple of days. Yesterday we had to go to the doctors for our medicals. This is the first time I’ve been to a doctors in years and then it was only due to me slipping on a loose paving stone in London.

We had to have jabs for TB, flu and MMR. We’d had these as kids of course but it was easier just to get them done again rather than try to get confirmation from England.

The problem was is that I had needles, so having four in a day meant it was not a day I hope to repeat soon.

We’ve got the permission to build on the land finally too, so will be starting on that properly next week with the septic tank permit. We can’t wait to get on there. The building officer at the city hall here is so friendly and helpful.

I tell you, it’s all go!

Last night was a snow moon, or a wolf moon, but what made it special as you can see from the photograph, is that you could clearly make out Jupiter, right next to the moon.

Snow moon is apt as apparently despite being in the mid-50’s right now as I type, it is going to snow tonight!

Posted February 4, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

Rod McKuen – Welshman in TN blog   Leave a comment

rod

I surprised myself yesterday at how upset I was when I heard the news of Rod McKuen’s passing, (I hate it when people talk about well known artists using the artist’s first name as if they know or knew them but have never met them or met them briefly when getting an autograph or something).

I never met him; I had a lovely email from him once about fifteen years ago but that was my sole contact with me, but, like many thousands of other people, I felt that I knew him, because his writing was so honest, personal and open.

I have a signed copy of his autobiography Finding My Father, which I’ve had for many years. I also have his books of course and records and CDs.

I got my love of old English sheepdogs from him.

I got my love of honest, open and raw poetry from him.

I got my love of spoken poetry backed by music from him.

Through his poetry and songs he taught me to be honest and open with my feelings and affections

He touched many people’s hearts and inspired so many people.

A sad day, you will be greatly missed, Mr McKuen.

Posted January 30, 2015 by Jon Johanson in Uncategorized

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